Football: Shearer double strike

Newcastle United 4 Coventry City 1

ALAN SHEARER looked to be in the business of reinventing himself as English football's most lethal finisher after his two goals deepened the gloom surrounding Coventry in their bid to stave off a growing relegation crisis.

Coventry might have preferred a trip into the unknown rather than the territory which has brought them nothing but severe discomfort in recent seasons - in their last five visits to Tyneside they have conceded 15 goals. But Noel Whelan showed an obvious determination to banish those uncomfortable memories, and imagined he had when putting Coventry in front after eight minutes. An explosive surge of pace saw Whelan create his own shooting space as he galloped on to an angled Darren Huckerby pass.

The trouble with Coventry is that they lack the ability to protect what they have and within 20 seconds of Whelan's theoretically uplifting goal the scorers were level. Shearer, might not be enjoying a season which matches his scoring hunger but he still has much of what made him, and straight from the kick-off, he punished Muhamed Konjic for an indecisive piece of play to drive in Newcastle's equaliser.

No Coventry match is complete without a Gordon Strachan touchline jig, although it was scarcely a dance of delight as his side conceded two more goals in the space of three chaotic second-half minutes.

Gary Speed put Newcastle in front for the first time, powering on to a delicately placed pass from Shearer before prodding in. And having suffered that 55th-minute setback, Coventry keeled over again when Louis Saha's downward header from Stephen Glass's corner deceived Magnus Hedman.

George Boateng was booked for the eighth time this season following a bad tackle on Glass, who was taken off on a stretcher, and Shearer poached his second goal after 75 minutes when Hedman failed to hold a Dietmar Hamann free-kick.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Charvet, Howey, Dabizas, Domi; Solano, Hamann, Speed (Barton, 86), Glass (Brady, 66) ; Saha (Ketsbaia, 77), Shearer. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Hughes.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Hedman; Nilsson, Shaw, Konjic, Burrows; Boateng, Soltvedt (Clement, 68), McAllister, Froggatt; Huckerby (Aloisi, 76), Whelan. Substitutes not used: Ogrizovic (gk), Edworthy, Telfer.

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

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